Swimmers take plunge for icy New Year’s dip

And they're away in the men's race...
And they're away in the men's race...

Swimmers ran into an icy dam and made a desperate dash for wooden trophies as a popular annual event returned to the upper valley social calendar.

The New Year Swim at Lee Dam, Lumbutts, took place against the backdrop of a winter wonderland following the recent snow.

Pennine Sub Aqua members spent the weekend breaking up ice and ensuring the swimmers had a safe entry and exit.

Diving officer Matt Allaby waded into the water carrying three trophies - one each for the men’s, women’s and boys’ and girls’ races. Swimmers spent around two minutes in the water, with the winners being the first to collect the trophies.

Mr Allaby said temperatures were hovering just above freezing, but with the wind chill it was warmer in the water than out - not that the swimmers believed that.

Harry Brown, 13, of Todmorden, won the boys’ race and struggled to speak afterwards. “It was freezing, awful. It was my first time and I won’t be doing it again,” he said. The girls’ race was won by Lucy Sullivan, 11.

Another youngster Joel Deakin, 12, also of Todmorden, entered as he wants to start open water swimming.

“It was extremely cold - colder than expected,” he said. “I could not really move.”

Dieter Rutkowski, 18, of Slack, near Blackshaw Head, won the men’s race for the second time.

“It was chillier than my last time in 2011 but I will do it again to retain my title,” he said. “At first when you get into the water it is a shock and then you get into it and the adrenaline takes over.

“Coming back is the worst because having made it to the trophy you have to swim back again.”

Claire Smith, 44, of Todmorden, was the first woman home and coped with the elements better than most. “It was not too bad. I will do it again,” she said.

All proceeds from the event go to organisers Todmorden Swimming Club. Last year the swim had to be cancelled due to insurance problems but Todmorden Lions stepped in to support the event through its public event insurance.

Swimming club spokeswoman Debbie Lorimer thanked all those taking part and especially Todmorden Lions for their help. The swim dates back to 1961 and has been held at Lee Dam for more than 20 years. It has also been held at Gaddings Dam, Todmorden, and in Hebden Bridge.